Employee Relations Pathways: Conversations about Breaks and Leave of Absences

sliceFrom your Employee Relations Team

As a supervisor, you create work schedules geared toward fulfilling the needs of those we serve, while at the same time providing reasonable accommodations to your employees, which supports the culture of a healthy work-life balance at Valencia. But, what happens when the employee does not follow the schedule or takes too much time away from work – impacting the department’s ability to provide services to our students? If this is happening in your department, then it is time for a conversation with that employee. The discussion should be about attendance and how to take advantage of breaks and leave of absences in a way that is beneficial to the department, while meeting the needs of the employee and Valencia.

employee-relations-pathways-270wQuestion: How do I address an employee who takes long or unscheduled breaks?

Observe, track and talk – the sooner the better. If these behaviors are not addressed in a timely manner, the employee may perceive the behavior as acceptable. By having the conversation, you may discover why the situation is occurring. It is your responsibility as a supervisor to address the observations, understand the situation and assist the employee in meeting attendance expectations. Changing a scheduled break time, while keeping business needs in mind, or providing other tailored accommodations to the employee, when feasible, are some ways to accomplish the goal of getting the employee back onto a positive track. Some solutions could be as simple as a request for a preferred meal time. If there is a more critical issue, such as a medical need, contact the compliance office in human resources for guidance about how to proceed. These changes may need to be re-evaluated periodically and modified based upon staff availability.

Please note: federal, state and local laws do not mandate required breaks; however, Valencia encourages supervisors to provide scheduled breaks. Employees who work without breaks over an extended period of time may feel a sense of accomplishment, but they will inevitably feel overwhelmed and become inefficient in their work. Employees need breaks in order to recharge their energy, which will improve concentration and productivity in your department.

Question: How do I address an employee who takes too much unscheduled time off?

Valencia provides a variety of leave for vacation, personal days, sick time and holidays. The College also follows federal and local guidelines for all eligible cases under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including some of the most common like worker’s compensation and military leave. Just as with unapproved breaks, the best practice is to start with a timely conversation between you and the employee.

In either case, the initial conversation should focus on addressing and understanding why the behavior is occurring, then review existing expectations and perhaps set new ones going forward. Subsequent conversations of the same nature should be formalized by documenting, to reinforce the established expectations of your department and Valencia.

The Office of Employee Relations (ER) provides customized consultation for management matters to assist in the employee-employer relationship. Please contact Michelle Sever, director of employee relations, at msever@valenciacollege.edu or extension 8256 or Lisandra “Liz” Suarez, assistant director of employee relations, at lsuarez@valenciacollege.edu or extension 8210 for assistance.

Disclaimer: Recommendations are general examples and do not apply in all instances. All characters are fictional and based on general assumptions on employee situations that may occur in the workplace hence, the steps provided are only a guideline and should not be considered the actions to be taken at all times. More information may be required to address an issue based on the totality of the circumstances

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